Why does Paul say in Galatians and elsewhere that before Christ the law was such that you are condemned if you fail one little part of this. In that case, everyone before Christ went to hell. And what does he mean in 2:19 "THROUGH the law I died to the law"

Well I guess there was not before CHrist historically, just ontologically. Jesus safety net extended to the old testament. I still need help with 2:19 though. Also, 3:26-29 says that the Galatians are all one in Christ, but in 4:11 says that he fears he has wasted his effort because of their current heresy. How do we explain this?

2:19 - through Baptism, Christians die to the Law.

The Galatians were gentiles who had been converted to Christianity from Paganism. There were groups of Jewish Christians, known as Judaizers who were coming to the Galatians and insisting they live as Jews, getting circumcised and obeying Jewish dietary laws, etc., thus putting themselves under the Mosaic law, which Jesus had fulfilled and Christians were no longer bound to. The Galatians were rather new to Christianity, and Paul feared that they were not stable enough to withstand this heretical teaching, thus he feared his missionary efforts had been wasted. That is the reason he wrote this Epistle, and why the tone is rather harsh to the Galatians. He calls them foolish and chastises them for being influenced by these people. He says they are preaching a perverted Gospel and are accursed for preaching a gospel other than the one Paul preached. Paul spends a lot of time in the first couple of chapters defending his preaching and establishing his authority to preach the gospel over theirs. Paul is, in fact, reeducating the Galatians on the Gospel he preached to them and combatting the heresy.

4:10 says that they were already observing some of the old Law. So I guess this is a great example of heretics in good faith. I am going to email the Most Holy Family Monastery this. Thanks

Here is a quote from Matthew Henry on Gal 2:19. "By considering the law itself, he saw that justification was not to be expected by the works of it, and that there was now no further need of the sacrifices and cleansings of it, since they were done away in Christ, by his offering up himself a sacrifice for us.’ :slight_smile:

As for the 1st part of the question, do you think the great people of the OT went to hell? The OT prophets spoke of the coming of Messiah. Enoch, Moses, and Elijah transcended up. Why? By faith.

So those in the old Covenant felt no hope, since all have sinned?

Those in the old Covenant may not have realized it, but there was hope…hope to come, through the Christ.

Christ would bring those who died before his coming into judgment when he descended into the realm of the dead following his death.

Galatians 3:19-4:7 (Purpose of the Law) gives a good explanation, especially 3:19,

    *Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should    come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary. *

So, essentially, the law could provide direction for living, but did not offer a means of salvation once we broke the law…enter Christ, and our means of salvation.

Peace and all Good!

The Law isn’t wrong-it’s simply ineffective at justifying man. The New Covenant is a covenant of grace, where God, with our cooperation, justifies man or makes him righteous, restoring the righteousness or justice lost at the Fall. Jeremiah outlines this covenant in Jer 31:33-34:
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

With the Old Covenant, man was challenged to prove his justice, to demonstrate his righteousness on his own, based on the Law. In Phil 3 St Paul tells us that he excelled at obedience to this covenant, and yet failed miserably anyway:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Faith is the pathway to authentic righteousness because it reestablishes relationship or communion with God, whereby He becomes the God of man again, Jer 31:34, so He may do the work of placing His law in our hearts and writing it on our minds, Jer 31:33. This is the meaning of Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “Apart from Me you can do nothing”. Man and God must commune, His spirit indwelling, in order for man to attain true righteousness/holiness/justice.

The gospel reveals the true nature and role of the Law: as a teacher, teaching us that we cannot fulfill it on our own; we fail miserably no matter how hard we try. From the Catechism:
**1963 According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and good,14 yet still imperfect. Like a tutor it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it. Because of sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and disclose sin, which constitutes a “law of concupiscence” in the human heart.16 However, the Law remains the first stage on the way to the kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides a teaching which endures for ever, like the Word of God.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin”.** Rom 3:20

To die to the law means to be under grace instead:

**1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: "I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."19

1966 The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do it:
If anyone should meditate with devotion and perspicacity on the sermon our Lord gave on the mount, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, he will doubtless find there . . . the perfect way of the Christian life. . . . This sermon contains . . . all the precepts needed to shape one’s life.20**

The way God writes His law on our minds is by transforming us into His image, again, with our cooperation. Initially this justification is done at baptism, where the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and love, are infused in us, but from there we struggle with remaining just, by remaining in Him, continuing on the path He set for us. Our justice is expected to grow, not remain static. The Parable of the Talents describes this. Justification, then, is a process, dependent on what we do with what we’re given: time, opportunity, grace, revelation-and God judges based on our response. Ultimately the justice of man is defined by the greatest commandments, to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves, because love fulfills the Law (Rom 13:8, Gal 5:14). Matt 25:31-46 gives an idea of how this love and judgement play themselves out.

Anyway, Paul explains how critical this love is in 1 Cor 13:
"…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing"

Finally, St Basil sums up this whole affair in his unique way:
If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit